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Template-thinking 101: Creating dynamic templates to scale your creative asset production

The rising demands of modern advertising to create more digital creative assets, for less money and resources, is an issue marketing and creative teams face every day. When your clients exist across multiple markets, advertising to them in a personalized way can be a challenge. But how can you maintain quality and still hit your targets without burdening your creative teams or increasing headcount? The answer lies in a need for a shift in mindset toward what we call template-thinking.

If you are part of a top global brand or agency, the chances are that your marketing needs are geared towards different audiences, demographics, formats, and languages, and are being funnelled and delivered through multiple channels.This can put pressure on marketing teams and digital creative leads to keep up with the demand for creative asset production. However, as these needs rise, budgets stay stagnant and the resulting gap that is created between the two is what we have identified as the marketing execution gap

Thinking in individual ideas and creative assets or simply from campaign to campaign is very restrictive in terms of consumer expectations today. This is because one size no longer fits all and consumers expect to see ads that are personalized to them. In fact, a 2021 study by McKinsey shows that 71% of consumers expect personalized content when they shop. Therefore, coming up with one single creative concept or one bit of snappy and effective copy no longer cuts it when marketing to a larger, global audience.

You might even have tried to scale up your asset production manually. But according to a study by Venngage, 36.7% of marketers struggle to produce creative assets consistently. This results  in wasted resources and unpredictable ad performance. But one of the basic principles of digital marketing is consistency.

You need to start thinking in dynamic templates if you want to maintain a consistent and high quality output of ads, and to avoid a waste of your unique digital creative assets. As found in a study by Adstream, marketers report that around 50% of their unique creative assets are never used. To stop this wastage, an essential change in perception is needed to adapt to this rapidly changing advertising landscape.

But how can you make sure that your creative teams thrive while also meeting the expectations of creative asset production? 

The answer: dynamic template-thinking.

Template-Thinking 101:
> 36.7% of marketers struggle to produce creative assets consistently, resulting in wasted resources and unpredictable ad performance.

> To stop this wastage, an essential change in mindset is needed to adapt to this rapidly changing advertising landscape.

> Template-thinking means that you approach your design needs with a working template in mind. In other words, instead of putting in the resources for coming up with a creative concept that then you turn into a template, you instead come up with the concept of the template to make sure that your creative concept is dynamic and scalable.

What is dynamic template-thinking? 

Template-thinking means that you approach your design needs with a working template in mind. In other words, instead of putting in the resources for coming up with a creative concept that then you turn into a template, you instead come up with a creative concept while simultaneously keeping in mind how this concept could be turned into a dynamic and scalable template. It involves thinking about the whole piece of creative production as modular components or variables which can be switched around. 

Scalability is perhaps the most important characteristic of dynamic templates and that is required to successfully adopt template-thinking into your workflows. If your website has hundreds of unique visitors per day, your ads need to be personalized to each of them. With a Creative Automation platform, you can scale your ad production in seconds and generate unlimited ad variations. 

By scaling up your asset production via template-thinking, you can remain consistent (after all, all creative assets would come from the same template) and avoid wasting unused creative assets, as well as create different iterations appropriate for multiple markets.

Benefits of thinking in dynamic templates

More free time for creative work.

One of the biggest challenges we observe in creative teams is the sheer amount of creative energy spent on manual, repetitive, and frankly boring tasks.

With a template-thinking mentality it is possible to stay creative, especially when it comes to optimizing dynamic elements such as colors, fonts, design, and layout. 

Not to mention that nowadays digital creative leads no longer have to make each iteration by themselves. With the correct tools they can leave the iterating and other repetitive tasks up to Creative Automation and focus instead on designing stunning creative assets.

Easier to scale and create iterations 

One of the biggest benefits of template-thinking is the scalability that it allows . You can create hundreds of iterations of your ad in minutes, be it in different formats, layouts or languages. By importing data in the form of spreadsheets you can quickly and easily generate creative assets in bulk. 

This benefit makes template-thinking perfect to fit your localization needs as creating iterations of your ads that have different languages, copy, colors, or models can be done at a click of a button. 

Save resources 

You may know the age old saying: “Time is money and money is time”. Well, when it comes to creating creative assets for your ad campaigns there have been no truer words. Marketers know that the more iterations or versions you want of your ad, the more time and money you have to spend on it.

By integrating template-thinking into your workflows, your spending on resources can be cut in half. But don’t take our word for it. The feedback from our clients shows that there is a 54% reduction of time and a 62% reduction of cost when adopting the use of our Creative Automation platform.

Top benefits of thinking in dynamic templates

1. More free time for creative work: With a template-thinking mentality, creative teams can save their energy for what really matters: creativity.
 
2. Easier to create iterations: One of the biggest benefits of template-thinking is the scalability that it allows you to do. You can create hundreds of iterations of your ad in minutes, be it in different formats, layouts or languages.

3. Save significant resources: By adopting template-thinking into your workflows your spending of your resources can be cut in half. The feedback from our clients shows that there is a 54% reduction of time and a 62% reduction of cost when adopting the use of our Creative Automation platform.

The benefits are now clear, but introducing a template-thinking mentality into your workflows is easier said than done. A study by Venngage shows that 22.9% of marketers struggle with creating the right layout for their digital advertisements. 

How we do it

We sat down with our in-house expert, Sr Video Automation Developer Guido Postma-Eijrond (or GuZ for short) to go over how our Managed Services team approaches template-thinking at Storyteq with creative assets from our clients Pure the Winery and Heineken. 

What is template-thinking and how does it work? 

Template-thinking is the systematic approach taken to creating dynamic templates that allow for a seamless rendering of multiple iterations built with the same effort as a single creative asset. This template can then be used to generate millions of versions at a press of a button. 

You can think of template-thinking as adding another dimension to your design process that centers around designing a template with the end result already in mind. 

One of the best practices for when it comes to approaching template-thinking is to keep in mind the technology and let it inspire you. It is important to note, not to design for the technology as a gimmick, but rather understand the possibilities and make clever use of that freedom where it can propel your output and increase the template’s effectiveness. 

A good example of this would be not only to use different copy in different languages, but also creating dynamic scenes, different shots, and even dynamic designs that can adapt to context. In principle, the more dynamic elements you have, the more possible iterations your template can create. 

What are some of the challenges in putting creative concepts into dynamic templates that are still visually stunning? 

When the design process is done and the stakeholders have approved it, the next challenge is to actually build the dynamic template exactly like it was envisioned.

Because of the dynamic nature of a template, the design is always somewhat fluid. For example, including different models, products, and languages makes each iteration unique and not just a “one off” design. 

However, having the initial design as a reference is of great importance so you can now focus on the technical realization and not have to think about making any more design decisions.
(Tip: It is always easier to come up with solutions to technical challenges when you know what the intention of the template is.)

An example of a common challenge in template-building is dealing with different parameters of text for different translations. A sentence in English is not the same length as in Korean, Dutch, or Russian. When designing your template you have to account for the space that might be taken up by text later on. The following visuals from Heineken illustrate how the boundaries are set for a dynamic text box for an ad that is translated to different languages.

Some exciting features of our own template builder: 

Automatic resizing for different ad sizes

In our template builder, resizing dynamic templates to fit different ad formats can be done at a click. Whether you need a square or a skyscraper ad, it can be done instantaneously


Seamless integration with our After Effects extension 

Implementing a new tool is easier said than done when your tried and tested workflows become threatened. The Storyteq After Effects extension is compatible with a wide variety of After Effects workflows. It allows you to create a dynamic video template from your existing Adobe After Effects project. Turning your files into dynamic templates makes it easier to personalize your advertising and scale creative production.

Template sharing 

A big part of creativity is collaboration. The Storyteq platform allows you to share dynamic templates between creative and marketing teams, ensuring a seamless integration into your already existing workflows. 

Wrapping up 

Template-thinking is a path which top global brands can take to adapt to the current advertising and content creation landscape. With a rising demand for personalized ads, and the benefits of localizing your content, template-thinking shouldn’t be a question of if, but when, as an outright necessity for a sustainable business model. 

As described, the benefits of adopting a template-thinking mentality are vast; benefits such as saving monetary resources, making your creative assets easily scalable through more rapid iterations, and freeing up the precious time of creative teams to do what they do best: be creative. 

As our in-house Video Automation expert GuZ has shown, template-thinking does not mean uniformity but rather consistency.  It frees up time for teams to be more creative while making sure that your ad output remains consistent both in quantity and quality.

Key takeaways

  • Template-thinking is necessary to adapt to the current advertising and content creation landscape.
  • The benefits of adopting a template-thinking mentality are vast; benefits such as saving monetary resources or making your creative assets easily scalable through iterations. 
  • Template-thinking does not mean uniformity but rather consistency. It frees up time for teams to be more creative while making sure that your ad output remains consistent both in quantity and quality.
Jul 14, 2022
Robert Winkel
Robert Winkel
Graphics
Johanna Kaszti
MarCom Executive at Storyteq
As the MarCom Executive, Johanna works alongside our marketing team to write stories for our various platforms. Outside of work, she is passionate about the outdoors and animals.

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